REPORT A PROBLEM
I like coffee. I like coffee a lot. I've drunken more cups of it than I can count in the past hundred or so years that the drink's been popular and affordable. Over the past week, I've had sixty-three cups. This makes sixty-four.
"Thanks for paying,"I say offhandedly. She snorts, furiously stirring her coffee without looking at me. We're in a cafe she dragged me to- kinda small, but loud. Loud is good because then eavesdropping's a pain in the ass. My sunglasses are back on- luckily, unlike the place I found her in, this place is pretty well-lit.
"Okay, first off,"she says suddenly, still stirring her coffee. "Who the hell are you?"
I take a sip. Bleh. Too hot. "Just a stranger looking for something I'll never find. Sugar's dissolved by this point,"I add helpfully. Her gaze snaps up and she glares at me, brown eyes flaring. I can't help it- I laugh. It's Adara a hundred years back. The eyes narrow. "What the hell's so funny?"she demands angrily.
"You,"I say, giving her a faint smile as I lean back on my arm. "You remind me of someone. What'd you say your name was?-
"I didn't,"she snaps. "My name isn't any of your goddamned business."
I shrug. "I did save your life,"I remind her offhandedly, taking another sip. Better.
She scowls at me. "I was doing fine on my own!"
I snort softly and shake my head. "We both know that ain't the case, sweetie. You were up shit creek and the paddle got left behind." I put my cup down and lean my elbows on the table, a faint smile on my face. "You got skills, sugar. But they weren't doing you shit until I distracted them. You'd've been number nine."
She glares at me again. It's not an intentional glare; she's one of those people who glares at everyone and everything when she can't think of something else to do. You can't take that sort of thing personally. "Don't use terms of endearment on me. I'm not a freaking sugar cube."
"You actually use the word Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœfreaking'?"I ask curiously. "It's called fucking, sweetie. And according to you, it isn't something you're unfamiliar with."
For a moment, I think she's going to throw something at me. Then it passes, and she exhales. "You're trying to get me angry, aren't you?"
I shrug. "Maybe."Damn. Didn't expect her to catch on so fast.
She grins at me suddenly. "Well it isn't going to work,"she declares. "I have no idea what the fuck just happened, you do, and I'm not storming away so you can run off!"
I shrug again. "Whatever, sweetie."
She scowls. "Don't call me that."
I raise an eyebrow and peer into my coffee cup. Almost gone. "I'm trying to get you angry, remember? Plus I don't really have anything else to call you."
She drums her fingers on the table for a moment. "Emily,"she says flatly.
I make a non-committal noise. "Means industrious,"I comment, gazing at my empty coffee cup with sadness. Ah caffeine, why hast thou forsaken me?
"Why the hell do you know that and don't you know it ain't healthy to drink coffee that fast?"
I snort, loudly. "Like that's anything I need to be worrying about."She stares at me, perplexed but considering. I change gears and motion to a waitress for another cup. "I know because names are important. Whether people know it or not, a name symbolizes a person. It shapes them; it has a part in their destiny.-
"And you're about to tell me that you think that's total bullshit,"I finish before she can open her mouth. Her eyes narrow suspiciously at me. "I can't read minds,"I interject calmly. "I just know your type. I have a few people like you."Though unlike you, they did start to believe in destiny. In fate. My mind flashes to her for a moment, darts back cringing. Though of course, for us, it was never a good destiny.
"Have?"she asks, raising an eyebrow disbelievingly. "What, did you buy them on the black market or something?"
I laugh softly.
"It's a bit more complicated than that,"I say. I get serious. "But s- Emily- I've got little time. Whether you know it or not- and you don't- it ain't a good idea for me to be out. Hell, probably wasn't even a good idea to save your life."Her face instantly darkens; I hold up my hand. "Not because I don't like you or think you're worthless. I think your death would have been a useless waste. I'm just trying to avoid certain people, and the more I'm out in the open, the less likely that is to happen.-
She considers me with brown eyes. "Someone's trying to kill you?"she asks.
Oh, I wish. "I'm not answering personal questions,"I counter after a moment, shrugging. Ah. Here comes my other cup of coffee, via pitcher-bearing waitress. I wait for her to pour and leave before continuing. "I also won't tell you everything you ask about what happened- at the risk of sounding, cheesy, it's for your own good."I gaze at her for a moment, push my sunglasses up. "You ran into something that you shouldn't have found. And that has consequences you don't necessarily want to pay.-
She rolls her eyes, snorting. "Yes, because I was just asking to get almost killed by two guys and dragged into whatever neverland you're from."
I offer her a faint smile, opening a pink-paper sugar packet for more stimulant effect. "In case you haven't noticed, life isn't really something that cares about the fine print, unless it's being used to screw you over."
Emily stares at her coffee. "Cheerful, aren't we? Okay, question one: what's your name?"
I pause, hesitating. "I-"
"Oh c'mon,"she complains, giving me a brown glare. "You know mine!"
I sigh. Stupid rules of engagement. "Mallory.-
She blinks. "Isn't that a gi-"
"I can and will walk away from this table without telling you jack shit if you finish that sentence,"I snap, my hand tightening around the coffee mug. If I had a nickel for every time some dumbass has brought that up, I'd have...
Well, enough to buy coffee without dismantling my pockets for spare change.
She raises her eyebrows. "Ho-kay, someone's touchy. Time for other question, which I hope you can answer without either the prickliness or evasiveness."She looks me straight in the eye, pushes her cup away, and enunciates very clearly.
"What the hell was up with the virgin sacrifice shit?-
I make a disgusted sound and drink my coffee. "I have no fucking clue,"I inform her, because I really don't. That sort of absurd shit is more the sort of thing humans deal in, not Nephilim, and Greater don't ally themselves with humans.
It's almost absurd enough that I could consider Samael. My hand unconsciously tightens around my coffee cup. He loves doing anything that pisses me off, especially if it's to anyone I consider under my protection. Which is kinda anyone in a thirty-mile radius.
Fucking hero complex.
But no. This is too- crude, for lack of a better term, for him. Not really his style either. Now, if it were young effeminate boys being sacrificed-
"It's called vocalizing, dumbass,"interrupts Emily. I blink at her, caught in my own thoughts. Her ever-ready scowl blossoms. "See, you were retrospecting and commiserating, and not telling me shit."Her eyes narrow. "Do I need to remind you I'm paying and can cut off your caffeine supply at any moment?"
My own eyes narrow behind my sunglasses. Never threaten the caffeine. "Do I need to remind you I saved your life?-
Her face tightens and her gaze heads to the table, where she gives the innocent sugar-packet case a death-worthy glare. I sigh inwardly and take another sip. I fucking hate socializing. I'm no good at it. "Look, whatever the reason was, I don't know it,"I say finally, since something needs to be said. If I had any sense, I'd be out that door right now. But Emily's got that thing. Insatiable curiosity. She'll wanna know what happened, why two guys are dead and their bodies vanished. And the path to that knowledge'll get her killed.
Again: fucking hero complex.
Uncomfortable silence stretches. I decide to try and break it. "Out of curiosity, aren't you a little young to have your cherry popped?"
Her gaze snaps up from the table and she glares at me. "I'm nineteen,"she informs me through gritted teeth. I open my mouth. I consider the ramifications of mentioning the obvious fact- that she's short for her age. I shut my mouth and finish my coffee.
"Isn't there something in Wicca or Satanism about the power of virgins?"asks Emily after a moment.
I snort. "Yeah, that and the power of dancing with no clothes on.-
Being what I am, I find it hard to take any religion seriously. Hell, most of us do. It's like watching people obsess over a soap opera when you helped produce the script. And quite frankly, any religion that involves nudity I try to avoid.
They're called briefs, people. Know them and love them. Greatest invention of the twentieth century, next to the flush toilet. And instant coffee.
"So virgins don't really have that much power?"she queries.
I tip back my coffee cup, frown when I realize it's all gone. "No more or less than anyone else,"I admit.
"Only a virgin with bloodright- someone who has or stands to have a large amount of power- would grant power through their death."And blood sacrifices don't really give you too much power, though I'm sure as hell not saying that part out loud. "And you don't have bloodright."
Emily drums her fingers on the mock marble table, looking perturbed. "So... they assumed that since I'm short I was good for a ritual sacrifice that wouldn't give them that much power anyway?"
I sigh. "More or less."
She just stares at me. "Jesus Christ that would've been a depressing death.-
"If it's any comfort, it wasn't just because you're short,"I offer as way of condolence.
She snorts. "Oh, how nice. The crazy serial killers didn't just target me for some fucked-up Satanic practice because of my height." Scowling, she finally tries her neglected coffee, the scowl growing at the tepid temperature. She puts down the offending cup and glares at it for all it's worth. "So Agent Smith, what were the other reasons?"
I blink behind my glasses, confused. "Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬ËœAgent Smith'?"
"Sunglasses,"she explains without looking up.
I blink slower. "Was that some kind of hip-hop reference?-
Now she looks up and gives me the look the two guys gave me back in the alley. "Hip-hop?"she repeats disbelievingly. "The Matrix? The movie with the creepy sunglasses guys and non-actor Keanu Reeves?"
I stare at her blankly for a few moments. "Never saw it. And the ritual wasn't Satanic."I reach for coffee. Remember that coffee is not there. Proceed to stare at cup in the hopes that coffee will somehow appear.
Emily keeps giving me the special bus look until she loses interest at my cultural ignorance in favor of summoning a waitress for coffee renewal.
Forced interaction results in me getting a good look at the waitress who shows up. She's around mid-twenties, with prettyish hair but boringly ordinary light blue eyes. Nothing special by my standards, though she probably gets a lot of compliments for her chest. She's eying my already empty cup, which she'd filled nine seconds ago. "Hun,"she begins with a thick inner-city drawl that has me mentally resigning her to waiting tables all her life, "you want decaf instead?"
"No,"I snap, "decaf doesn't have caffeine."Three sleepless nights and threats to part me from my stimulant make me short.
Stupid small-town waitress in big-ass city.
... Whatever it's called.
Her eyebrows twitch slightly. "Just askin',"she says as she puts both our cups on her tray and drifts away. I sense a smirk and turn to see Emily. "Someone's getting their coffee spat in."
My eyebrows raise. "You took me to a place that spits in people's coffee?"
"Only when they're being rude,"corrects Emily. I just sigh and put my hand on my face. Why is it I never find the quiet meek females in need of rescue?
"So... what were the other reasons?"
I glance at her.
For a moment I debate over how much I should tell her. It's dealing with information that borders on knowing too much. But I'm too tired to come up with decent bullshit, despite how closely it resembles the truth. "There were two things,"I say finally. "First, your eyes."
Her eyebrows shoot up and she looks at me quizzically. "My eyes?"she repeats flatly. I shrug helplessly. "Don't know how to explain it. It's just- they're not quite right."
"Not quite right,"she repeats again, this time with an air of disbelief. She's about five seconds away from being insulted.
I slouch back in my chair and sigh, closing my eyes for a moment. "It's not an insult. They're just- they're really intense. Unusually vivid. Look, do you remember the color of those guys' eyes?"
"Yeah, I'm not fucking blind,"she snaps. "Light grey and dark grey."
My eyes open and drift up to the ceiling. White stucco. "Think about it. Do you usually remember someone's eye color that clearly? Usually it's the thing the human memory leaves out the easiest from a physical portrait."
There's a short pause. "And that means... what exactly?' she asks, anger underlying the question.
I let out a long sigh, gaze still on the ceiling. "It means that in the human memory, when you remember a person, the easiest thing to forget about their appearance is their eye color."
There's a longer pause. "So what you're saying,"she says slowly, "is that their eyes- and mine- are the type that people remember more?"
I nod. "Sort of. Your eyes are almost like that. Almost that intense, but not quite."
I hear the paper crinkle as she toys with a sugar packet. She speaks again. "They're nothing like yours. Nowhere near that intense.-
My gaze snaps down from the ceiling to stare at her, and I feel my eyes flare slightly. She blinks and stares at me, eyes wide, and I know she caught something past the sunglasses. Fuck. "My eyes- are unusual,"I say after a few minutes. "And it'd be in your best interests to forget you ever saw them."
She starts to open her mouth. "No, you can't,"I snap tightly, my left hand in a fist on the table. "I'm not showing them to you again."
She leans on her elbows and rolls her eyes. "You're too damn touchy.-
Crossing her arms, she rests her head on the table, gazing at me. "Seriously though. Is there a reason why your eyes like that? I've never seen anything like them before."
I don't answer for a moment. "Age. Bloodright. Other things."I stare at the table. Black mock marble with white swirls that never form real patterns, though my eyes look for them. Pointless diversion.
Emily sighs. "Okay, I'll change the subject. So my eyes are intense and that's the reason I got jumped by Stupid and Stupider?"
"One of the reasons,"I say distractedly, still idly tracing table patterns.
"And your eyes aren't that intense, they're almost that intense."
I know that the area between her eyebrows is getting a little wrinkle. "That is some of the stupidest ass shit I have ever heard,"she states with a pissed tone.
I surprise myself with a short, harsh laugh. "Yeah, I know."Maybe those like her are related to ones like us. Maybe they share our blood but aren't capable of being Awakened; maybe they share our fate but can never learn of it. Who knows. The world is full of maybes.
Moments pass. The waitress comes back. With coffee.
I look up from the table and examine the situation. She's carrying a tray with two steaming mugs. One of them is closer to her than the other. She hands the closer one to Emily. "This is for you, luv,"she says with a smile. Emily smiles back her, and I just catch the eyebrows raising slightly in shared humor. "And this-" says the waitress, turning to me and plopping down the other mug right in front of me, "is for you."Her smile has widened.
Even if Emily hadn't told me, I'd suspect something.
Goddammit. I hate being paranoid.
Time to role-play. I smile at the waitress brightly. "Thanks,"I say cheerfully. Still smiling, I easily switch my cup with Emily's and take a big gulp. They both regard me in silence.
The waitress sighs, the sound carrying defeat. "Hun,"she informs Emily tiredly, "I think your coffee's cold again. Mind if I go warm it up for you?"
Emily lowers her head further and gently bangs it on the table. "Please. Feel free."
The waitress takes the steaming cup and retreats to the kitchen. I feel Emily glaring at me and ignore it, sipping the black sugarless liquid.
"You're no fun,"she grumbles.
I shrug. "I prefer to avoid bodily fluids in my food when I can help it."
She rolls her eyes. "Way you say that, you'd think it's something that happens on a regular basis."
I don't say anything. I remember to keep a calm face and keep drinking my coffee. I've gotten better at self-control. I guess she gets something though, because her eyes focus on me in a way that doesn't involve anger. They snap down, quickly. She's upset.
I look away. I focus on my coffee, wish I was anywhere but here.
"Sorry,"she mutters suddenly. I choke on my coffee, sputtering as the near-boiling liquid slams into parts of my throat years of drinking haven't desensitized. Gasping, I manage to tap my fingers in a rhythmic pattern and feel the pain ease. I glance across the table at her. Her face is pissed again. That's good. Pissed I can handle. Regret or pity-
Pissed I can handle.
"It's called apologizing,"she hisses. "No need to act like I just said I'm pregnant or some shit!"
I just blink. Nothing I can say in response to that. I'm a guy, after all.
The Tip Jar